Blancaneaux Lodge Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Cayo District, Belize

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

  • Rustic luxe, thatched-roof rooms with private wooden decks; some with plunge pool
  • Lush creek-side location in Belize’s temperate Mountain Pine Ridge forest reserve
  • Beautiful (manmade) waterfall
  • 2 excellent restaurants: Montagna Ristorante, serving Italian fare, and Guatemaltecqua Restaurant
  • 2 pools, including a smaller heated one overlooking the creek
  • Creek-side area for spa services
  • Horse stables

Cons

  • No in-room TVs (a pro for some!)
  • No fitness center (though plenty of outdoor activities)
  • Hillside property; numerous stairs required to get from rooms to the restaurant and main pool
  • Remote location not easy to reach (a pro for some!)

Bottom Line

One of two resorts in Belize owned by movie director Francis Ford Coppola, Blancaneaux Lodge enjoys a splendidly lush location beside a creek in the country’s Mountain Pine Ridge. This fabulous hideaway features decent amenities (including horse stables), and wonderful wooden cabanas with thatched roofs and rustic luxe decor that includes colorful Guatemalan textiles. There are two pools, one of which is heated and overlooks the brook. But all of this luxury comes at a price, with steep room rates and pricey meals. Blancaneaux arguably has a wilder, more beautiful setting than competitor Chaa Creek, with better room views, but prices tend to be significantly higher, and the location is slightly more difficult to reach.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

A stylish tropical hideaway on a pine-studded hillside overlooking a roaring creek

Natural Waters
Natural Waters

Blancaneaux Lodge consists of 20 units built on a forested hillside overlooking Privassion Creek and a manmade waterfall. The main lodge, located uphill from the cabanas, makes as a welcoming first impression and sets the tone for Blancaneaux as a whole. Guatemalan Technicolor textiles are readily in evidence -- from the napkin accompanying the welcome cocktail to the throw pillows in the lobby lounge. A gift shop sells hard-to-find Guatemalan Maya handicrafts, though at elevated prices. There’s a somewhat undependable Wi-Fi signal here that may also reach some of the rooms.

Also found in the main lodge is the charming bar, decorated with old pictures of the Maya region’s myriad archaeological sights. A ceiling fan used in the opening scene of Coppola’s Apocalypse Now whirs overhead. Large screened-in windows let in cooling breezes from outside, and there’s a spacious outdoor lounge area. On the other end of the main lodge is the dining room, with indoor or outdoor patio seating overlooking the swimming pool. The pool has its own outdoor dining area, and features colorful tiles and wooden lounge chairs.

As you head down the path past various cabanas toward the creek, you’ll come across the second pool, a heated structure in brick and stone shaped like horseshoe and overlooking the creek below. A small covered structure with lounge chairs serves as a spa treatment area; there is a second set of lounge chairs overlooking the creek just before a bridge offering wonderful views of the rushing water below.

The surrounding rugged mountain landscape and abundant pine trees make for a spectacular setting. An airstrip sits at the property’s front entrance and is used to bring in visitors not wanting to make the 90-minute drive over a dirt road from San Ignacio.

 Location

About a 90-minute drive from the town of San Ignacio, in the heart of the Cayo District's Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

It’s not easy to get to Blancaneux, which is why many visitors prefer to fly to its private airstrip opposite the lodge. From the Western Highway at a turn-off near the town of San Ignacio, it’s a 90-minute drive to the lodge on a rough dirt road suitable only for vehicles with a high clearance. From Belize City, it's around a two-and-a-half hour drive. There are numerous natural attractions in this neck of the woods.

The lodge itself is built on a hillside overlooking Privassion Creek, on its own 70-acre forest preserve.

  • 2-hour-30-minute drive from Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport in Belize City
  • 5-minute drive to Big Rock Falls
  • 10-minute drive to Rio On Pools
  • 25-minute drive to Rio Frio Cave
  • 35-minute drive to Hidden Valley Falls
  • 40-minute drive to Barton Creek Cave
  • 90-minute drive to Caracol Maya ruins
  • 90-minute drive to San Ignacio
  • 2-hour drive to Guatemala border

 Rooms

Jungle chic, with wooden furniture, Guatemalan Technicolor textiles and accents; and wonderful views of the creek

The Family Cabana
The Family Cabana

At first glance, some of the thatched-roof wooden bungalows housing the rooms might appear rustic, but inside they are the embodiment of rustic luxe. The rooms are screened in to provide protection against insects, and the thatch and bamboo materials composing the roof and sides of the structures are clearly visible from the inside. Some rooms have their own plunge pools.

Ceiling fans and breezes cool the rooms, and air-conditioning is not usually missed unless you visit during the warmest months between March and May, especially since temperatures are lower due to the higher elevation. Other room amenities include a conch shell with an intercom inside, known here as a shell phone, from which you can order anything to be delivered to your room. The comfortable beds feature a variety of pillows and big Guatemalan bedspreads. A private wooden patio provides views of the creek and surrounding hillsides.

  • Evening turndown service with candles
  • Minibars are refreshed daily and there is coffee/tea delivery in the morning.
  • Francis Ford Coppola's iconic shell phones (an intercom inside a conch shell) allow guests to communicate with staff members.
  • Wooden patios
  • Extremely comfortable beds
  • Signature bathrobes
  • Ceiling fans
  • Walk-in showers with Mexican tile, and hand-made, eco-friendly soaps and shampoos
  • Minibars and coffeemakers
  • iPod docks
  • No TV
  • No air-conditioning
  • Deluxe Cabañas have plunge pools and outdoor showers.
  • The Francis Ford Coppola Villa also has its own plunge pool.
  • Enchanted Cottage features stone and hardwood construction that's more modern.

 Family

Romance takes center stage at Blancaneaux, but kids and families are welcome.

The Two-Bedroom Villa
The Two-Bedroom Villa

Though the peaceful jungle setting surrounding the resort makes it popular with couples, families and children are more than welcome -- Francis Ford Coppola is a family man, after all! Accommodation options include spacious two-bedroom, two-bathroom villas, or the Family Cabana that comes equipped with a queen-sized bed, two twin beds, and a dining area. The resort's two restaurants offer separate children's menus, and there are educational tours and activities geared towards young people.

 Food

Delicious gourmet Italian cuisine prepared with ingredients from the organic garden, and Guatemalan cuisine served poolside

Outdoor seating at the Jaguar Bar
Outdoor seating at the Jaguar Bar
  • Montagna Ristorante focuses on Italian dishes, including pastas, seafood and brick-oven pizza. It's open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and its open-sided, thatched-roof dining room overlooks the grounds and forest from high above.
  • Stylish, well-stocked Jaguar Bar adjacent to the lobby in the main lodge
  • Guatemaltecqua Restaurant serves Guatemalan cuisine in an open-air, poolside setting
  • Fine selection of wines from the Coppola vineyards in both restaurants and the bar

 Pool

Though this inland resort lacks a beach setting, it boasts plenty of swimming options.

The Pool
The Pool

The resort's square freshwater infinity pool is located between the main lodge and the Guatemaltecqua Restaurant. It grabs the eye with its turquoise and ceramic-tiled surface -- a stark contrast to the lush green rainforest surrounding the resort (some might find it an eye sore). Comfortable lounge chairs are made from local mahogany, and staff members are available to provide fresh towels and take drinks orders.

The U-shaped hot pool, heated by hydro-electricity, is a relaxing option for guests, especially during cooler weather. It is situated in a secluded area next to the spa (it is used for certain treatments) and overlooks the creek below.

There are also an endless number of streams, creeks and waterfalls to explore, due to resort's natural setting in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest. Natural swimming holes can be found close to the resort on Privassion Creek, or within hiking distance. The hidden rock pools near Big Rock Falls are highly recommended by the resort.

 Spa

The Thai-themed spa is small but mighty, with a number of treatments in a beautiful rainforest setting.

Creekside Spa Treatmeant
Creekside Spa Treatmeant

The resort's open-air Waterfall Spa along the Privassion Creek, though small in size, offers an impressive selection of Thai massages, body scrubs, and wraps, as well as face and head treatments. All treatments use organic local ingredients, and the Thai theme is truly authentic -- staff members have been trained at the Sacred Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok. Treatments also come with access to the hot pool, which sits adjacent to the spa building.

 Drinks

An authentic lodge setting for cocktails

Drinks available at the Jaguar Bar
Drinks available at the Jaguar Bar

Guests will receive a welcome cocktail (or fruit juice) during the check-in process. More drinks are available at the Jaguar Bar, a cozy area off the resort's lobby which also offers small plates and free Wi-Fi. The scene is rustic-chic, with historic black and white photos lining the walls, and quality wood furnishings. Movie fans will appreciate the ceiling fans, which come from the set of Apocalypse Now. During the day, the room is bathed in natural light; in the evening, the setting becomes romantic, with low lighting and hushed conversation. Guests are able to order fine wines (including the Francis Ford Coppola brand, of course) and cocktails using fresh, local ingredients. The specialty Jaguar Juice is made with local craboo liqueur aged rum and fresh pineapple juice.

 Services

A gift shop, airport transfers, and free Wi-Fi

  • Gift shop with one-of-a-kind Guatemalan knickknacks
  • Airport transfers (meet and greet) are available at both Belize International Airport and Flores International Airport for an additional fee. The staff can also arrange domestic air services for arrival to the airstrip just outside the resort entrance.
  • Staff are available to provide suggestions and directions for excursions. They can also book day tours and on-site activities with the resort's English-speaking guides.
  • Free Wi-Fi in the main areas of the resort
  • Laundry service is available seven days a week.
  • Organic garden

 Physical Activities

Outdoor activities galore, including horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking -- but no traditional fitness center

Horse Stables
Horse Stables
  • There is a dizzying array of distinct guided tours offered by Blancaneaux. The resort owns its own air-conditioned vehicles, and knowledgeable English-speaking guides are licensed in their fields.
  • The horse stable houses 17 horses. A variety of horseback riding tours are available for riders of all ages and skill levels.
  • There are numerous natural swimming areas and waterfalls, not only on-site, but also in the surrounding Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.
  • Staff can recommend a variety of hikes and treks in the area.
  • Mountain bikes are available for guest use, and there are guided bike tours to explore scenic trails around the reserve.
  • On the guided Moonlight Jaguar Quest, guests have the chance to view nocturnal wildlife, including the elusive jaguar (jaguar sightings are rare).
  • Five cave explorations offered for all ages, during which guests can learn about local Mayan history and culture.

 Romance and Honeymoons

The intimate resort is made for romance, with a secluded setting and private villas

Blancaneaux's quiet, secluded setting makes it well suited for those in search of romance. The Jaguar Bar is a romantic spot for drinks, and the evening turndown service is a memorable touch -- candles are lit and placed along the porch just in time for guests' return from dinner.

Honeymooners typically stay in the secluded Honeymoon Cabanas, which have spacious decks overlooking the resort's natural waterfalls. A special honeymoon package is offered.

 Weddings

Weddings are not a common occurence at Blancaneaux, but small parties are possible in the summer season.

Due to the size of the property (and to maintain the resort's peaceful atmosphere), Blancaneaux Lodge does not actively promote itself as a spot for destination weddings; however, small wedding parties are possible during quieter times of the year (such as the summer season). A maximum of 12 guests is allowed per wedding party, and there is not a special group rate offered.

 Celebrity Sightings

There are a number of celebrities who have been spotted here, but due to company policy, they must remain nameless.

Because of Francis Ford Coppola's stature and star power, the resort does attract A-list celebrities from Los Angeles and New York City. Most of them stay at either the Francis Ford Coppola Villa or at the Enchanted Cottage (both have private driveways and entrances). The resort is unable to release names of former guests, but keep your eyes peeled, especially in the Jaguar Bar.

 Eco-Friendly

The Coppola family is passionate about eco-friendly practices in all areas of the resort.

The Hot Pool
The Hot Pool

The Blancaneaux Lodge is Rainforest Alliance Verified, and the Coppola family and staff remains committed to environmental causes, sustainable practices, and local conservation.

  • The property was originally built with local and regional materials, including thatch, hardwoods, pine, bamboo and tile.
  • In 1993, the Coppolas installed a hydro-electric plant, which harnesses the energy of Privassion Creek, and therefore supplies the property with renewable power. Excess energy from this process is used to heat the hot pool.
  • The resort uses energy efficient light bulbs, and accommodations come without telephones, televisions and air-conditioners.
  • Waste water from the Deluxe Cabanas and Enchanted Cottage is processed and reused for landscaping purposes.
  • Organic waste and grass clippings are used for composting (non-organic waste is transported to a local government landfill), and solid waste is compacted prior to disposal.
  • Laundry services use biodegradable detergents.
  • Toiletries are locally produced and purchased in bulk. They are transferred into individual ceramic and wood containers for guest use.
  • The resort operates a three-acre organic garden for vegetables, herbs and fruits that supply the Jaguar Bar and two restaurants.
  • Chickens on the property provide free-range eggs.
  • Meats are purchased locally and Belizean fishermen provide fresh seafood.
  • Organic wines are served in the restaurants and bar.
  • The resort partners with several organizations and colleges to support projects dedicated to preserving biodiversity in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve and Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Animals that call these forests home include jaguars, pumas, ocelots and eagles. (Guests are given an opportunity to be part of the research and development).

 History

Francis Ford Coppola and his family have been running the show since 1981.

Blancaneaux Lodge is aptly named after the original owner of the land surrounding the resort. Long ago, the French botanist, Michael Blancaneaux, traveled through the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico and the former British Honduras, and helped bring about peace between British forces and the Maya. For repayment, Blancaneaux wrote to the Governor of British Honduras and requested 60 acres of land along the Privassion Creek.

Years later, in 1981, Francis Ford Coppola fell in love with the area while searching for a jungle setting similar to what he experienced while shooting Apocalypse Now (check out the ceiling fans in the Jaguar Bar that come from the movie set). For over a decade, the main building (now the lobby, restaurant and bar) was used as a Coppola family retreat. Francis Ford Coppola enjoyed writing at the property, and all of the resort's accommodations are equipped with writing desks. The Blancaneaux Lodge officially opened in 1993, and to this day, the Coppola family's distinctive touch can be found throughout the resort -- they are still regular visitors themselves!

 Handicap

The rural setting is not ideal for handicapped guests.

Due to the hilly terrain surrounding the resort, Blancaneaux Lodge is not well suited for those with special needs. None of the accommodation types offered here are handicap compliant.

 Safety

Friendly local residents and a safe, inland location

Belize is a peaceful and friendly nation with fewer than 400,000 residents. The resort is located off a bumpy dirt road in the northwest corner of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. The remote setting does experience its share of mosquitos and small critters, and it's a good idea to bring bug spray. No inoculations are required by the Government of Belize, but you may want to check with your local physician prior to traveling in the region; many travelers choose to take malaria vaccine pills.

 Bottom Line

One of two resorts in Belize owned by movie director Francis Ford Coppola, Blancaneaux Lodge enjoys a splendidly lush location beside a creek in the country’s Mountain Pine Ridge. This fabulous hideaway features decent amenities (including horse stables), and wonderful wooden cabanas with thatched roofs and rustic luxe decor that includes colorful Guatemalan textiles. There are two pools, one of which is heated and overlooks the brook. But all of this luxury comes at a price, with steep room rates and pricey meals. Blancaneaux arguably has a wilder, more beautiful setting than competitor Chaa Creek, with better room views, but prices tend to be significantly higher, and the location is slightly more difficult to reach.

Things You Should Know About Blancaneaux Lodge

Address

  • Chiquibil Road, Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, Belize

Room Types

  • Cabana
  • Deluxe Cabana
  • Enchanted Cottage
  • Family Cabana
  • Francis Ford Coppola's Villa
  • Two-Bedroom Villa

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 20
Pool: Yes
Spa: Yes
Internet Access: Yes
Cribs: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: Cayo District, Belize
Address: Chiquibil Road, Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, Belize
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